You may have noticed I’ve narrowed my blog down to three main topics: tips for artists, authors and entrepreneurs. That may seem ridiculously wide-ranging, and indeed it’s clumsy to always have to say all three together. I sometimes shorten it to “authors, artists and entreps” but I wish I could say “auth-artpreneur-ists.”
I’ve also heard it said that you can’t successfully be more than one thing: that when choosing a defining tagline for yourself, you need to pick one title and stick with it.
But actually it’s becoming routine to see things like “pole-vaulting, globe-trotting technophile, and writer”. So I say screw it, show off your hobbies and interests to distinguish yourself.
The difference between authors and artists is…
Not much. Artists are visual people who see things in pictures; authors are lingual people who think in words and build stories.
Both artists and authors develop their material by themselves, and they enjoy doing it. This makes them chiefly independents who enjoy spending time alone or “in their own heads”.
Besides, it is entirely possible to be talented at both.
More to the point, while anyone can be an author or artist, these days we must all also be entrepreneurs – at least if we want to be successful at it.
If we are very, very lucky, someone famous might stumble upon our genius and promote us to the world.
Until that happens, we need to promote ourselves.
This means that artists need to find the words to describe their art, and authors need to find the visual imagery (like covers, ads, etc.) that sells their writing (you don’t actually have to be strong at both of course, as you can hire someone to help you).
More about auth-artpreneur-ists
And as far as business strategies go, artists and authors are in the same boat.
Authors need to learn to package and present their writing to hook an agent/publisher who takes a big cut, or else build up a huge following so they can sell directly.
Artists need to learn to display and present their art to galleries or dealers who can connect them with buyers, for a big cut, or else build up a huge following to sell art directly.
(The main difference is that a piece of art should sell for at least several hundred dollars, so the market is “higher-end”).
Increasingly, having a huge following is the prerequisite to hooking an agent/gallery. (Again there are differences; mainly because the fine art world is about 10 years behind the publishing world).
The takeaway point is that being an entrepreneur is a huge help for would-be authors and artists.
But what does that even mean?
Aha, there’s the rub. How do you “be” an entrepreneur? Being an entrepreneur means that you look for opportunities to generate your own income. It is more than being self-employed. A self-employed artist might make 10 paintings a month and sell them for $500 each, making a pretty good living. But unless he increases his prices, he’s limited to how much he can produce. He’s working for an hourly wage.
An artist would just keep plugging. And artist/entrepreneur would be thinking of ways to double or triple his income. Specialized products or prints? Booths at art shows? Collaborations with community projects, websites, etc? Art training DVD courses? The more that they do, and they more well-known they get, the more they can charge for their original art.
An author is in a unique position because they are already selling “prints” – they can write one book, but sell it a million times. They just have to focus on increasing exposure and sales. What they can’t do however (unlike the artist) is keep raising their prices. However, with their new-found-fame, they can start teaching seminars, doing book signings, selling limited edition prints, or other things related to their work.
An entrepreneur never settles, they want to do more and more with their time.
How do you get started?
The easiest way to become an entrepreneur is to focus on producing value for other people. What do people need that you can give to them? How can you make their lives easier, happier, more successful? But that’s not enough for an auth-artpreneur-ists, because:
You need to brand your personality.
You are not just your painting or your writing. You are YOU – and that’s part of your USP (unique selling preposition). While it’s possible – in fact it used to be the norm – to be a reclusive creative genius, it’s getting harder. Even if you produce your best work after spending 5 years alone in a cabin, (and that little background story would actually be a great blip to help sales), you need to then come out and share your work, and yourself, with the world.
You need to let people see you and connect with you. They need to get to know you, trust you and like you.
(In the back of my head, J.K. Rowling is saying “no you don’t! I’m totally an introvert and recluse. And I’m a millionaire, bitch.” And Dan Brown is nodding his head in agreement.)
But think of what you know of J.K. Rowling – sure people loved her first couple of books, and that’s why she got popular, but think how many times you’ve heard that “rags to riches” tale about how she wrote in a coffeeshop, on welfare checks, single mother, yada yada… That personable, likeable story is one of the reasons for her success.
Start a blog
But how do I do all this, you ask? I’m sure you already know the answer. Start a blog. And not just any blog, a successful blog. And how do you do that? You learn how to be a successful blogger. There are tons, and tons of online resources, and it takes awhile to get the hang of it. But basically, look at the blogs of your role models and imitate.
On the other hand, maybe my advice is worthless – if you’re writing the next Harry Potter or DaVinci Code or even Shades of Gray, based on the biographies of the authors, maybe I’m exactly wrong. Maybe you need to focus on your writing and keep making it better. Keep making it better and keep getting it in front of other people.
If it’s really, really good, it’ll probably do fine anyway.
Perhaps the “auth-artpreneur-ist” is simply the model for mediocre writers or artists, whose writing/painting doesn’t sell itself.